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Funeral begins for slain Bedouin teacher in Umm al-Hiran

Jan. 24, 2017 1:15 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 25, 2017 3:21 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- The funeral of Yaqoub Abu al-Qian, a Palestinian citizen of Israel and local math teacher from the unrecognized Bedouin community of Umm al-Hiran, began early on Tuesday afternoon, after the Israeli Supreme Court ordered that Israeli police return his body to his family a day earlier.

While numerous eyewitnesses have insisted Abu al-Qian was posing no threat to anyone when Israeli police opened fire at his vehicle, causing him to lose control of the car and ram into officers, Israeli authorities have claimed the local math teacher was carrying out a deliberate terrorist attack in the incident that left one policeman killed.

Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said on Tuesday that police units had completed preparations for the funeral and would be present throughout the procession “to prevent any incidents from occurring.”

However, witnesses said that Israeli police set up checkpoints around midday on the roads leading to the Negev town of Hura, where Abu al-Qian is supposed to be buried, preventing a number of mourners from joining the funeral.

The head of the Arab Joint List in the Israeli Knesset, Ayman Odeh, said in a statement that "Israeli police is preventing people from practicing basic humanitarian duties," and called upon mourners to stick to the conditions imposed by the Supreme Court.

Story continues below.
Yaqoub Abu Qian's father in Umm al-Hiran.

Mourners in Umm al Hiran.

Mourners in Umm al Hiran.

Mourners in Umm al Hiran.

Mourners in Umm al Hiran.

Mourners in Umm al Hiran.

Israeli police spokeswoman Luba al-Samri had confirmed on Monday that Abu al-Qian’s body was released on the condition that the funeral take place during the day and last no longer than two hours.

According to Israeli Channel 2, the Supreme Court did not however impose restrictions on the number of mourners, and allowed the funeral to begin in decimated Umm al-Hiran, as requested by Abu al-Qian’s family.

Due to the allegations against Abu al-Qian, Israel had previously announced that it would impose a number of preconditions on his family to release his body, as part of the Israeli state’s policy of withholding bodies of alleged Palestinian attackers on the grounds that their funerals become sites of “incitement” against Israel.

Palestinian MK Talab Abu Arar of the Joint List told Ma'an in Jerusalem that the claims were “unacceptable,” and said that mourners would “maintain order during the funeral in respect for the martyr."

Palestinian MK Ahmad Tibi, who was also present at the Supreme Court hearing, said on Twitter in response to the Israeli policy of imposing preconditions on funerals that "we at least want to be equal in death," rejecting police intervention in the burial and mourning process for slain Palestinians.

The Abu al-Qian family has meanwhile demanded an investigation into the killing itself, and rights groups also announced on Monday that they had appealed to the Israeli Justice Ministry’s Police Investigations Department (PID) to open a criminal probe into how and why police allegedly shot MK Odeh during the Umm al-Hiran clashes.

Meanwhile, Israeli daily The Jerusalem Post reported on Monday that a senior police spokesman declined to say whether an officer wounded during the incident was run over Abu al-Qian’s vehicle or shot by other policemen, raising new questions about the police account.

Meanwhile, a protest took place on Monday morning in denounce the Umm al-Hiran demolitions, as well as the demolition of at least 10 Palestinian homes in the city of Qalansawe on Jan. 10, with protesters raising Palestinian flags and black flags as a sign of mourning for Abu al-Qian.
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